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Georgia amendment No. 1: Creating an Opportunity School District

In this series, we will preview what you need to know about the local contested races, constitutional amendments and special election ballot questions on your Nov. 8 ballot. This week, we looked at proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution.

Other proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution that will appear on your ballot:

* Amendment No. 2: Creating a support fund for child sex trafficking victims

* Amendment No. 3: Abolishing and re-forming the Judicial Qualifications Commission

* Amendment No. 4: Using tax revenue from firework sales for fire prevention and trauma care

WILL APPEAR AS: Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

WHAT IT IS: Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District would create a statewide school district and give the governor’s office the authority to take over failing schools.

This authority would be extensive; the state would have complete control over the schools in the opportunity district, meaning it could remove principals and teachers it deemed ineffective and to alter curriculum, materials and budgets.

The proposed constitutional amendment is modeled after similar plans in other states. Louisiana took control of more than 100 of New Orleans’ failing schools 10 years ago, and the “Recovery School District” has seen mixed results.

Advocates say “recovery” is proof of what can be achieved when elected school boards and school systems are dismantled and taken over by the state.

Opponents point out the recovery district still has lower test scores than the state average and disrupts children and parents.

The Forsyth County Board of Education issued a formal resolution opposing the Georgia amendment on Sept. 15, citing what members said was uncertainty and vagueness in the language.

The resolution said “there are procedures in place that can achieve the same results without so much unknown and without creating additional layers of government.”

Both candidates for the Board of Education’s District 5 seat – Republican incumbent Nancy Roche and her challenger, Democrat Anita Holcomb Tucker – oppose the plan.

“This is not just a ballot question; it is a constitutional amendment that will require many, many years to reverse,” Tucker said. “The same type of constitutional amendment has unleashed severe cases of fraud and corruption in Louisiana, Tennessee and Michigan.

“The children that need help the most are merely pawns to funnel taxpayer school tax money to a few corporations whose only goal is to turn a profit.”

Roche mirrored the Board of Education’s position.

“We just feel that Opportunity School District is not the right approach to increasing student achievement,” she said. “We also feel the state really needs to address the community issues rather than just coming in and taking the [schools] over.”